It seems like a professional athlete gives up certain liberties as soon they sign a big deal. As fans we’re willing to let them handle things like a death in the family or an illness, and we generally will put up with the random injury (as long as it doesn’t become a trend). But personal issues? ‘He makes too much money to miss any time because of THAT.’
There seems to be a double standard that exists in what we’ll tolerate from someone we know and from a professional athlete. I’m guilty of it too, we’re generally much more sympathetic to someone facing a personal issue if they’re on our social level, but if a professional athlete ends up going through nearly the same thing, it’s a lot tougher to give them the same benefit of the doubt.
Pat White is the latest athlete (hell, latest Dolphin) to be facing “personal issues.” Already not widely-popular in Miami for reasons that are not entirely in his control, whether or not White’s “personal issues” are over or not, his reputation stands to take even more of a hit as he sorts through everything, fair or not. Maybe it’s worth getting off Pat’s back a bit though.
It seems like a lot of athletes come to Miami to “find themselves.” Demetrius Underwood comes to mind, Manny Wright too. Perhaps the most famous is Ricky Williams whose jersey was burned when he announced an abrupt retirement just days before the start of the 2004 season. Williams timing was what bore a considerable amount of that anger, but his journey to find his own sense of identity was mocked in many circles and reduced to a “pot-smoking hiatus.” Ricky was pushed to the brink mentally and physically and questioned what he really wanted to do with his life. It took him a while to sort it all out. Recently Ricky’s documentary (but honestly, and sadly, probably just as much so his on-field production) have given Dolphins fans a new appreciation for athlete’s facing personal issues and life questions. Now let’s apply that to Pat White.
I don’t know what was troubling Pat White that caused him to miss the start of camp. I can kind of infer from reading comments his brother made earlier in the week and comments he made on Twitter during the off-season, that he seems to be facing a bit of an identity crisis. All things considered I think that’s pretty reasonable.
Think about it, Pat White has probably never faced an athletic setback in his entire life. He’s naturally about as athletically gifted as one can be. I’m not even speaking in a football sense, I mean in a general sense. There are a lot of things athletically that Pat White can do that none of the other Dolphins really could. When he was 18, White turned down a career with the Angels and good money to pursue football in college. He had huge success in college too. He and West Virginia drubbed Georgia in a Sugar Bowl game in his freshman finale, it was his coming out party.
I know more than a few of you remember that game and watching White with Steve Slaton, and going “wow.” White had a great collegiate career, he’s probably the best WVU QB of all time. He’s got the best bowl record of any college quarterback at 4-0 with two BCS victories. He was “The Guy” at West Virginia.
Then he gets picked by Miami, and receives a mixed reception as some fans immediately feel like his was a poor draft choice. Remember, Pat Whit may not be used to much criticism, it’s not like he heard much at WVU (when he was winning his first year on) or in high school (when he was receiving scholarships and getting drafted by the Angels). Then he gets stuck behind a franchise-QB in the making, relegated to a small part of one package and in the only real action of his first season he gets carted off the field in a stretcher courtesy of Ike Taylor.
That didn’t exactly send Dolphins fans clamoring for more, White lost even more fan support over the off-season, and the guy who probably shielded White from the majority of the criticism for being a wasted pick was just shipped to San Francisco. Face it, in Miami we love to hate our high-round misses. Eddie Moore was more reviled than any second rounder should ever be. I still can’t stand Jamar Fletcher over Drew Brees (the first Brees miss).
Then consider White enters the season presumably 4th amongst 4 quarterbacks, potentially even standing to be cut. The Fins don’t exactly have many openings to play receiver right now. Can you really blame a young man who has never been faced with an athletic setback, suddenly finding himself in this situation and beginning to wonder if maybe he had made the wrong choice or if there was something else he should be doing.
Isn’t that natural? Every single person has at some point stopped mid-gait on their way into work, looked up and questioned everything. If not that dramatic you’ve at least had second thoughts. Just because you make a lot of money or were a second round pick doesn’t mean you don’t still face those issues and don’t deserve a lot of the same benefit we give to anyone else in those predicaments in society.
White is in camp now, he claims its behind him. Whatever it was. And let’s hope it is, but even if it’s not let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. In many regards Ricky Williams can offer Pat White quite a bit in the way of counsel. As an athlete whose navigated through quite a bit on his path, Williams also once faced a choice between professional baseball and football. Maybe Ricky already is mentoring the young man to a degree. He’s certainly taken notice, opining recently that White was the Dolphin’s most improved player over the course of the last off-season.
Regardless, maybe Dolphins fans should consider being more patient and supportive with Pat White. I, for one, still think he can have a successful professional career. Whether that’s at quarterback, receiver or playing baseball, he’s too talented not to be successful. But in the meantime, give the kid a break. There are a lot worse things to be, than uncertain about your life.